Diabetes Mellitus - Treatment

There is currently no cure for diabetes. However, the condition can be managed well enough to allow most people to live normal lives. Treatment of diabetes focuses on two goals. The first is to keep blood glucose within a normal range, and the second is to prevent complications from developing over time.

Lifestyle Changes for Treatment of Type II Diabetes

Obesity is one of the major causes of Type II diabetes. Therefore, controlling one's weight is an important step in controlling the disorder. Type II diabetics are advised to have a well-balanced, nutritious diet and to follow a program of moderate exercise.

The goal in diet planning is to limit one's intake of calories. The term calories is used to describe the energy content of foods. If one takes in too many calories, they are not used to produce energy. They are converted into fat, which is stored in the body. The number of calories a person should take in each day depends on a number of factors, such as age, weight, and level of activity. Many professional organizations have developed diet plans for people with Type II diabetes. These plans insure that people get all necessary nourishment. They also insure that people do not eat more calories than needed for daily activities.

Oral Medications for Type II Diabetes

A number of drugs have been developed for the treatment of Type II diabetes. Most of these drugs belong to a class of compounds known as the sulfonylureas (pronounced SULL-fuh-nil-u-ree-uhz). They include tolbutamide (pronounced toll-BU-tuh-mide), tolazamide (pronounced toll-AZ-uhmide), acetohexamide (pronounced ASS-etto-HECK-suh-mide), and chlorpropamide (pronounced klor-PRO-puh-mide). These drugs stimulate the pancreas to make more insulin.

These drugs all have side effects. For example, they may cause a person to gain weight. But weight gain is often the original cause of the problem for Type II diabetics. So the drugs may not be very useful. They are still not as satisfactory as a well-planned diet and program of exercise. The drugs are also not effective against Type I diabetes.

Insulin: Treatment for Type I Diabetes

Type I diabetes can be treated with daily injections of insulin. The injections provide the insulin that the patient's pancreas doesn't make. The amount of insulin taken depends on many factors, including the patient's age, height, weight, food intake, and level of activity.

Insulin injections may also be needed by people with Type II diabetes. The injections are recommended when other methods of controlling the disorder do not work. The injections are given just under the skin anywhere on the body where there is loose skin.

Patients who require multiple insulin shots over the course of the day may be able to use an insulin pump. An insulin pump is a small device worn outside the body. Insulin flows from the pump through a tube connected to a needle. The needle is inserted into the abdomen. The pump is operated by a small battery. The pump can be programmed to inject a certain dose of insulin at given times of the day.

People who take insulin have to plan their injections carefully. Injections should be given to coincide with meals. If they are given at the wrong time, an insulin reaction may occur. An insulin reaction is the result of having too much insulin in the blood. A person may not have had enough to eat, or may have taken too much insulin. The patient may become cranky, confused, tired, sweaty, and shaky. Left untreated, he or she may become unconscious or have a seizure. Treatment for an insulin reaction is to give the patient food that has sugar in it. The sugar helps overcome the excess insulin in the blood.

Treatment of Last Resort: Surgery

In extreme cases, a pancreas transplant may be performed. In this procedure, the patient's own pancreas is removed and a healthy pancreas substituted. If the surgery is successful, the healthy pancreas begins producing insulin in the patient's body.

Surgery is often a treatment of last resort. Any surgical procedure has many risks involved. A doctor wants to be certain that those risks are worth the benefit the patient will gain by having a new pancreas.

Alternative Treatment

Diabetes can usually be treated successfully by the methods described above. A person should use caution in considering alternative treatments. If they are not successful, life-threatening complications can develop.

Some practitioners recommend a variety of herbal treatments for diabetes. Some of these herbs are thought to reduce glucose in the blood. They include fenugreek, bilberry, garlic, and onions. Cayenne pepper has been suggested to relieve pain in some forms of diabetes and ginkgo to prevent eye disorders related to diabetes.

Any therapy that lowers stress levels may be useful in treating diabetes. Such therapies include hypnosis, biofeedback, and meditation.

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